Gov. Hochul: Masks required at child care centers, EMTs to administer vaccines

New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted a coronavirus briefing Wednesday morning to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts, including a new masking requirement for child and day care centers, plus a new policy that will allow EMTs to administer vaccine and booster shots.

The governor reiterated the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as she encouraged unvaccinated New Yorkers to weigh the risks of remaining that way.

“You’re 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID if you’re unvaccinated and 11 times more likely to die,” Gov. Hochul said. “I don’t know who wants to play Russian Roulette with this.”

Addressing breakthrough cases, the governor said they remain rare and social media rumors are fueling wild theories about how common they really are. The governor said breakthrough cases accounted for 0.6% of new cases in New York over the past seven days, and 0.04% of COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide.

“People are concerned about breakthrough infections,” Gov. Hochul said. “Some people are trying to make the argument that ‘there are breakthroughs, so why get vaccinated?’ As if that proves the vaccine doesn’t work. That’s a false narrative that’s spun around on social media. We need to shut that down. There can be breakthrough cases, but they’re rare.”

The governor announced the 82% of New Yorkers 18 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, with 73% of that age group fully vaccinated. However, she expressed concern about the younger age bracket vaccination rates, with only 63% of 12-17-year-olds statewide with at least one dose, and 52% fully vaccinated.

In an effort to increase youth vaccination, the governor announced a new incentive where 125 tickets to the Governor’s Ball music festival will be raffled off to newly vaccinated individuals at one of the state’s #VaxToSchool pop-up locations.

“There’s something very exciting going on, known as the Governor’s Ball,” Gov. Hochul said. “I didn’t start this, but I will take full credit for it. The concert will have Billie Eilish, Post Malone, so people will have a shot at 125 tickets to come to Governor’s Ball, which is a big, big concert. A lot of excitement about that right now in the city.”

The governor announced new mask requirements for child and day care facilities statewide. The new policy says all staff and visitors must be masked, as well as all children ages 2 and older.

Additionally, the governor announced a similar masking measure for all residential congregate programs which are operated, licensed, certified, or approved by the state’s Office of Children and Family Services.

Furthermore, the masking requirement will also take place for programs and facilities licensed or registered by the state’s Office of Mental health, Office of Addiction Services and Supports, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, and Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Officials from the governor’s office say these mask requirements will apply to all regardless of vaccination status.

“With the Delta variant on the rise, requiring masks at state-regulated child care, mental health, and substance abuse facilities is a key part of our broader strategy for slowing the spread of the virus, reopening our economy safely, and protecting vulnerable members of our population,” Governor Hochul said. “For children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, masks are the best line of defense against COVID-19 infection. This new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools.”  

The governor said the state continues to prepare for the FDA approval of COVID-19 booster shots. She said more than 8,000 active providers have already enrolled in the booster program, adding that $65 million in state funds have been allocated to help activate 200 vaccination sites for boosters across New York. She said those sides will include regional mass vaccination sites, as well as pop-up clinics.

“We’re going to have a spike [in booster demand], and I don’t want to all of a sudden address it when it becomes a problem,” Gov. Hochul said. “We have plenty of people, trained and qualified to administer vaccines. Today we’re directing the Department of Health to allow basic EMTS to administer vaccines. This is an idea that came out of our local officials — many county executives told me they would like to be able to have this ability.”

According to the governor, allowing basic EMTs to administer vaccines will add more than 2,000 fully trained vaccinators statewide, and add 50,000 basic EMTs who are now eligible for training. According to officials from the governor’s office, the required training for EMTs can be completed online or in-person and licensed EMTs can become a State-approved vaccinator by demonstrating skill competency online or in-person.  

The governor also applauded Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Pegula Sports Entertainment to implement a vaccine requirement for attendees at Buffalo Bills and Sabres games, and she said she encouraged all sports and entertainment venues to follow suit.

“I’m asking every sports organization to follow this lead and institute a requirement that your fans be vaccinated before they attend,” Gov. Hochul said. “That’s how we’ll deal with this fall vulnerability.”

On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated after a group of health care workers sued, saying their Constitutional rights were violated.

Judge David Hurd in Utica issued the order Tuesday after 17 health professionals, including doctors and nurses, claimed that their rights were violated with a vaccine mandate that disallowed religious exemptions.

The judge gave New York state until Sept. 22 to respond to the lawsuit in federal court in Utica.

The state issued the order Aug. 28, requiring at least a first shot for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes by Sept. 27.

Regarding the judge’s decision, the governor said Wednesday that the state will appeal the ruling.

“I believe the mandates are smart,” Gov. Hochul said. “Mandates are one of the reasons that we have an increase of people getting vaccinated. Yes there will be some individuals who will try to defy this. There will be court decisions that we’ll appeal. We have to continue the mandates.

When asked if a health care worker vaccine mandate will lead to staffing shortages in an industry that is already stressed after a year and a half of a pandemic, the governor said the state would be able to provide resources to prevent hospitals from facing critical staffing-induced decisions.

“I’m not going to let this be a problem,” Gov. Hochul said.

Regarding the federal judge’s ruling, a statement from the governor’s press secretary Wednesday said:

“Gov. Hochul is doing everything in her power to protect New Yorkers and combat the Delta variant by increasing vaccine rates across the State. Requiring vaccination of health care workers is critical to this battle. This order does not suspend the vaccine mandate, but it temporarily bars the Department of Health from enforcing the mandate where individuals have claims for religious exemption. We are considering all of our legal options to keep our communities safe.”

Watch the full briefing

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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